I found it perplexing as a young man that so many of the people I
knew who never made it beyond being domestics and day laborers clung
tenaciously to the promises of this country. So no matter that they have been
denied opportunities because of race or lack of education or other difficult
circumstances, they passed on the hopes and the dreams that they once had,
or that they still have and equally important, they passed on that sense of
obligation that is necessary to see the dream become reality.
Today there's much focus on our rights, indeed I think there is a
proliferation of rights. I don't deny that these rights are important, they are.
But I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded
those with grievances. At least it seems to me that more and more people are
celebrated for their litany of grievances about this or that. Shouldn't there at
least be equal time for our "bill of obligations" and our "bill of
responsibilities"? What is required of us? I think we have an idea...
When I begin to feel overburdened or put upon in Washington or in
my job, I often like to think of those who have made it possible for us to be
here tonight as a free people. People like my grandparents, people like the
man who thought it was important to clear the sewer so that houses wouldn't
flood. There are those close to us who've helped us and made it possible, our
parents, our teachers, and our friends and there are those who are in the not
so distant past who made this country safe and free or who changed it on so
many ways for the better. Those who fought and died and gave in the words
of President Lincoln "that last full measure of devotion."
Justice Thomas Speaking at Being an American